Demand for delivery has never been so high, and there is significantly greater supply than pre-pandemic, as foodservice operators capitalise on this increased consumer demand. Furthermore, delivery has become a lifeline whilst traditional routes to market were restricted, following just 11 weeks of ‘normal’ trading in 2020.

According to the Lumina Intelligence UK Foodservice Delivery Market Report 2021, this has resulted in the foodservice delivery market achieving value sales of £11.4bn in 2020, a growth of +48% vs. 2019 – and more than double its value in 2015. Of course, the question on everyone’s lips is, will this be sustained as the hospitality sector re-opens?

In 2020 delivery accounted for £2 in every £10 spent on eating out, so we can expect this to rebalance as restrictions ease with some spend being transferred to dine-in and takeaway occasions. As such, the report predicts that the foodservice delivery market will see a slight decline of -7.6% in 2021, however this remains well ahead of its pre-pandemic value, at £10.5bn.

This prediction aligns with the views of over 200 hospitality leaders, surveyed by Lumina Intelligence Hospitality Leaders Poll – conducted in partnership with MCA, Big Hospitality and the Morning Advertiser – over half (55%) of whom anticipate that delivery volumes will ‘decrease somewhat but will still be higher than they were pre-pandemic’. Just 6% anticipate that volumes will continue to grow when dining out reopens, 4% expect volumes to be static and 15% believe they will decrease drastically.

The pandemic restrictions offered ideal conditions for delivery growth as consumers grew increasingly bored of home cooking, to the extent that ‘didn’t want to cook’ overtook long-standing number one ‘treat’ as the primary motivation for getting a foodservice delivery. One in twelve consumers ordered foodservice delivery for the first time during the pandemic, with those aged 65+ a strong over-index. This reflects the headroom in this age group due to the younger age profile of delivery vs. overall foodservice, whereby over 55s account for just 11% of delivery sales vs. 20% of total foodservice occasions.

Value growth was driven by both new consumers, as well as existing users increasing how frequently they ordered delivery. More than a quarter of consumers (27%) said they increased their usage of delivery over the last year. The average frequency was once a fortnight, with nearly a third (31%) ordering at least once a week.

In terms of future intentions, over three-quarters said they will continue to order takeaway delivery even when all coronavirus restrictions are eased or lifted. This behaviour is somewhat influenced by a nervousness about returning to on-premise sites (54% agreement) and reiterates the importance for operators of continuing to operate and develop a delivered proposition going forwards.

Whilst many will continue to order delivery, 32% intend to do so at a lower rate than they have through the pandemic. New users – and those users who have increased their channel usage over the last 12 months – are more likely to decrease their usage once restrictions are lifted. Operators will therefore need to consider how to retain these customers – or whether to focus their efforts on their more loyal established customers.

Dinner accounts for nearly seven in ten occasions for delivery, but we are seeing operators increasingly targeting other dayparts to drive frequency. For instance, with more consumers at home during the day, many café, bakery and sandwich brands are targeting the at home lunch occasion. However, this is typically lower ticket than the lucrative dinner daypart, which can make delivery fees harder to justify. Just Eat has responded to this with its ‘big brands delivered for £1.99’ messaging and allowing its app users to filter on restaurants offering low delivery fees, including McDonalds, Starbucks, Pret and Subway.

The forecasted modest decline in the value of the delivery market in 2021 will be temporary, with consistent growth expected from 2022-2024, albeit at a slower rate than pre-pandemic. The market will benefit from both a supply-side growth in branded outlets offering delivery, plus a boost from dark kitchens and virtual delivery operations. Lumina Intelligence believes that whilst foodservice delivery is well placed to continue its positive trajectory, it will need to leverage pandemic-driven consumer delivery habits to ensure behaviour is habitual rather than an occasional indulgent treat.

  • Lumina Intelligence part of William Reed, the same parent company as MCA. For more information about the report, contact